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This interview is part of a series called “Tapestry is Everywhere!”, in which we learn from Tapestry users who are applying the curriculum in surprising ways or places. In this article we’ll meet Sue, a parent-teacher who will be homeschooling …

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MUST We Do Group Discussions?

Submitted by on April 3, 2014 – 6:08 pm2 Comments
MomDaughterTeaWe are launching a new initiative this year that we call Tapestry University. (You can read all about it HERE.) One reason we’re doing is is to provide increased support for those using Tapestry in group classes. I have long been an advocate of teaching upper-level content in the context of co-ops (local or virtual) because I think that students at this age can really begin to listen to one another, and also benefit from expressing themselves “in real time” and supporting their arguments “on their feet.”


Recently, a Tapestry mom named Martha was honest enough to post this question on one of our Yahoogroups:
I have used Tapestry of Grace for two years, although they are spread apart. We are getting ready to start high school next year and I’m really excited about using Tapestry. My concern is that I keep hearing how much better it is to either be in a co-op or group discussion.


My closest friend is adamant that you cannot do it justice without the Tapestry discussion class. Various other Tapestry moms also bring it up. There are several reasons that I just don’t see a co-op or outside group working well for us. I’m very discouraged thinking that my leading discussion is going to be sub-par. I will have on rhetoric- and one dialectic-level student. Just being honest here, but if it’s so crucial to do things in a group then I’m not sure why we should use Tapestry. I have been so excited, but when I consistently hear these comments it’s a complete wet blanket and making me second-guess our path.
Personally, one of the most exciting aspects of Tapestry is the discussions. I most definitely plan on having them. What disturbs me is that I keep hearing that I can’t do it justice. The comments stem from two arguments: I’m not qualified/educated enough to teach it properly, and/or that only group opinions will challenge and teach the students fully. Like I stated in my first post – if I’m not good enough to teach it, and we must have discussions in a group, then why do it? Part of me knows the answer, so I guess I’m just wanting reassurance.


Martha got about fifteen good responses. Some ladies talked about skipping discussions, or modifying their frequency or type to make Tapestry guides work for them. We applaud modifications to our week-plans, and want there to be something for everyone in our program. However, I was particularly struck by the content of three of the responses, which would have closely mirrored the advice that I would have offered.


Joy wrote:
We’ve used Tapestry for the last 9 years and although at times it would have been nice to have another opinion on a subject, I do not feel we have suffered because without a co-op. Every year I am a little more convinced and reassured that the beauty of TOG is the ability to pick and choose. And remember, Tapestry was in place for a good while before co-ops were introduced. In my opinion, they are an option that is great for some, not applicable or not possible for others.
Amen, Joy! When I was developing the Tapestry method, I used it with my two high-school aged boys. We had a ton of one-on-one or two-on-one discussions that were meaty, fun, and worldview shaping. We all loved them, and I did not miss the fact that we had no co-op. Later, the Tapestry method was honed and further developed in a co-op setting, but we have consistently written the discussion outlines as if they were being done one-on-one because I have always firmly believed that they can be effectively done that way.


Let’s read what other moms said: note especially how Martha’s questions about her possible inadequacy as a teacher are addressed by these experienced moms.
Tracy wrote:

I have been using Tapestry for eight years. I have graduated one rhetoric student (last year) who is doing GREAT in college. I have two more rhetoric students right now and a 5-year-old. I plan to continue with Tapestry all the way through.I have never used any sort of co-op. It has never been practical with our schedule. However, I faithfully complete one-hour discussions in each subject we are covering every week. I treat them as an inflexible component in our schedule (except for illness and the like), but I want to relate that reaching that level of self-discipline took me many years of shaky starts and even failures. I remember one year that my son and I went to breakfast together to try to “catch” up on 4 or 5 discussions!  However, over the years I developed the self-discipline to prepare for my discussions and lead them even when I didn’t feel like it–the true reason for most of my neglect. Even if the discussion calls for two hours, I keep it to one (I used to set a timer to be faithful at this).

My children have to all clear their schedules to attend the discussions. I have done this with one student or two. On a couple of subjects, I have had as many as three (all siblings)! However, I think that these discussions have been valuable even with one. Already the literature is often arguing an alternative point of view, and so it provides other voices. Yes, it would be great to have other voices in the room, and I am sure that we are not perfect, however we have been quite good!

I will warn you that my method is hard. I have had to study my teacher’s notes faithfully every week for eight years, and I have had to humbly admit it when I haven’t understood something. (Thank God that my son understood Kant and explained him to me!) I have learned so much! I will also admit that I wanted to quit a few times.There were times that I wanted something easier for me, but I’m so glad now that I took the harder road. Now, I am able to spontaneously discuss the worldview in other media, such as TV shows or movies, as my mind is trained to seek out themes and worldviews. Would I be bragging to say that I think that I also “earned” my son’s heart in the process, and he seems to respect and seek out my advice even while living in the dorms at a secular school?!

In college, my son’s peers have been surprised that he was homeschooled. “I wouldn’t have pegged you like that,” one peer told him. This is because he is well read and can articulate logical viewpoints, which they assumed that a “sheltered” homeschooler couldn’t do! I love that Tapestry has not kept us from other points of view, but we have had to wrestle with them and discuss them. We have truly had the “big conversations.” I have also sometimes “devil advocated” alternative points of view in order to challenge my kids to think. This has on occasion been hard as sometimes the alternative view starts to makes sense to them, and I have had to bring it all back to a Biblical worldview again.

Now, I’m not saying that he wouldn’t have benefitted from a co-op. I’m sure that there are benefits and negatives in my methods, as I’m sure that the co-op will have them as well. The truth is that we all fall short of perfection. I am only asserting that a mother can faithfully and humbly teach Tapestry completely on her own if that works for your family.

I hope this encourages you,

I loved Tracy’s response because it put the onus where I believe it exists: on the teaching parent. While there are curricula out there that foster independent study all the way, Tapestry is not designed as one, especially in the upper grades. While there is a lot of independent reading (and drafting compositions) in the Tapestry program that is recommended, the discussion component does rely on the active involvement of the parent. We have worked super hard to make such discussions attainable for diligent parents such as Tracy. Many would share her response and experience. I am among them. I was never a trained teacher: I self-educated all the way through. I believe that to produce thinking young adults who love learning and God, you have to BE a thinking adult who loves learning and God yourself. I share Tracy’s orientation; my path for the homeschooling journey was similar.


Sharon wrote:

I have been using Tapestry for four years and have one rhetoric, one dialectic/almost rhetoric, one upper-grammar and one lower-grammar student. The first year we used Tapestry, my oldest son was in 7th grade. Just getting my head around Tapestry and History itself was challenging enough for me, because I had a public school education and had learned almost nothing about the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. For that reason – that is, to save myself the time and anguish of having to prepare for dialectic-level discussions without having had the background myself, and while I had three other children to worry about – I enrolled my oldest son in an LLC class (Lampstand Learning Center, the online once-a-week class offerings of Tapestry taught by experienced Tapestry moms).

As I have progressed through the four years of the curriculum first at a dialectic level and then at a rhetoric level with my children, I have forced myself to spend as much time as possible actually reading their upper-level resources and making sure I at least skim, if not read thoroughly, the Teachers’ Notes for the dialectic and and rhetoric levels. I have not been perfect at this, but I have learned a LOT and developed a well-rounded knowledge of history along the way.

Two years ago, I saw a note here on TOG LooseThreads advertising an opening in a virtual co-op, and I responded. At the time we were just going to begin the rhetoric level with my oldest son, and I felt the need for support, encouragement and challenge in our rhetoric History studies. My son was taking Literature at the LLC that year, but doing history alone at home with me. Having a sit-down discussion with just one student, having to follow the script because I still didn’t know the material that well myself (it was still our first time through), seemed like it would be uncomfortable and forced, and I didn’t have a child who loved history enough to come and ASK me to just discuss it with him at random times. It was going to have to be structured, or it was not going to happen at all.All that is to say that the virtual co-op has been a huge blessing to us, and I have gained so much from the relationships I’ve developed with the other moms there, and the accountability has kept us moving at times when it would have been hard to stay motivated to keep up on our own.

But do you HAVE to have group discussions or be part of a local or virtual co-op to make Tapestry work for your family? The answer is certainly not. The Teacher’s Notes are written very carefully and are provided so that they can educate you, the parent, and allow you to teach your student(s), whether they consist of just one or many.

I have found it to be a blessing not to have to prepare for discussion every week, so in that way, it has been easier belonging to a co-op. If I were going to do it on my own, with just my one or two dialectic- and rhetoric-level students, what I do would look a lot different.

As it is, they get to benefit from another’s effort and dedication to study the week’s TNs and prepare a power point presentation that includes relevant pictures, notes, etc, and from their fellow students’ efforts and insights. It helps my math-and-science child understand that he’s not the only one who has to study history, and some kids even put a lot of work into it and really do well at it. I think that’s good for him to see.

I would say the major difference is that, if you are not part of an outside group, then you will need to create the accountability structure for your child yourself (as far as scheduling, testing or not, being prepared for discussions, etc.), and additionally, more of the quality of the education your child ultimately receives will be dependent on you.

Are you already a great student of history and feel comfortable with many topics? Or are you willing to invest the time to learn along the way? Then it can work out fine.

If you are planning to be hands-off and just allow your student to do the reading, answer questions, and maybe take a few weekly or unit evaluations to see what he’s getting out of it, that could probably work. But your student will be missing a key component that would help to develop his understanding. Some people actually learn by having to articulate their understanding in words.

I think it depends greatly on what type of individual you are, what type of student you have, and how much time you as a teacher can put into it.

I hope this has been helpful. Tapestry definitely gives you ALL you need to succeed. The question is simply, can you make it work for your family on your own. Only you can answer that!

Most sincerely,
Sharon h.

What I loved about Sharon’s post was that she found a way to give herself confidence as she grew into the program. She used our Lampstand Learning Center classes at first, then found a virtual co-op. These options are available to 99% of our current Tapestry parents. Only a very few do not have Internet. Note, too, that Sharon says that “Tapestry definitely gives you ALL you need to succeed.” Again, she brings the choice (and responsibility) back to the teaching parent.

Martha wrote these (and other) ladies back the following post to end the discussion:
I’ve really enjoyed learning from you all and appreciate the thoughtful responses. It really has come down to comparing the pros and cons of doing it on our own versus being in a co-op. As my husband and I discussed everything, the answer became pretty obvious. The key aspect is that my oldest has become a very independent learner so the Tapestry classes are the only areas I directly teach. And, these are the areas I am most passionate about, and I can’t bear to think that I would only take part in a portion of it.

There were definitely a lot more pros to doing it ourselves, but I won’t list them all. I am still open to co-ops should our needs change. I am thrilled to get to work through these things with both of my girls. I know it will be learning process for us all, but a wonderful one as well! I feel confident now that I’ve been able to really think through the process, seeing the good and the bad of both sides, rather than just following what anyone else does.Thanks,
All of these ladies graciously gave me permission to share their stories. I hope that they encourage you to press into the paths of your homeschooling journey to which our good God is calling you! May He enable the faith and faithfulness that our vocation requires!


  • Candid says:

    Let me give slightly different variation. I started with my oldest for our first year in Tapestry with D-level. He was young enough that we had four years there and is now doing R-level work.

    A friend was interested in a small Tapestry co-op with me and another of her friends. I was interested partly because my youngest and I butt heads so I hoped having him with a couple other kids and another person to be accountable to would help. Further I hoped that the creative nature of one of the moms would create some fun that I never added in the projects. I led R level literature and sometimes history; once in a while I did D-level history. We did this for two years.

    I stopped because when I could watch D-level history I was disappointed on how little my youngest was contributing, for that matter how little any of the student participated, even ones I led in literature were closed mouth.

    So here I am in the first year after, and you know what? My youngest is now engaging in his discussions. He knows the material, doesn’t always like it, but he is willing to talk and even argue about it.

    So if I were to share, I might discourage doing Tapestry in groups. 😉

    • Marcia Somerville says:

      Thanks for sharing that. There really is no “one right way” to homeschool. Our paths along this journey are as varied as are our families and our circumstances, but God is the Author who is weaving it all together into one grand, glorious praise to His Mighty Name. I love that we all get to contribute our stories to the grand themes of HIStory.

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